Diocletian, the Emperor who retired


5:30 pm - 6:45 pm


A113, Samuel Alexander Building
University of Manchester, Manchester, M13 9PL

Dr Roger Rees (University of St Andrews) will give a talk entitled ‘Diocletian, the Emperor who retired’.

Dr Rees has kindly provided the following abstract:

Diocletian retired in May 305, the first Roman emperor to do so, and he moved from his imperial capital at Nicomedia to live in a newly built palace at Split (Croatia). The choice of location was something of a homecoming for Diocletian who had been born in Dalmatia about 60 years earlier. But if the location of his retirement home is easily understandable, the timing and motivation for the decision are less clear. Excavation  has revealed suites of private rooms which might have befitted a wealthy man in retirement; but other features suggest a ceremonial aspect which would have served a public function.  Architectural research of the last 20 years has demonstrated that the North Wall and Mausoleum were built in great haste. And the ancient texts offer contrary views too about Diocletian’s retirement: Diocletian is variously presented as a weak man coerced into retirement by a bullying Galerius; as a man keen to avoid political problems he had seen predicted in religious rites; as a man broken by age and illness. And yet a contemporary orator said the retirement was the result of a selfless plan, long time agreed; and another ancient text glimpses Diocletian happily retired in Split, tending his vegetables in a kitchen garden, and resisting a former colleague’s call to return to political power. This talk reflects upon the life and reign of one of Rome’s great emperors, as no doubt he did too, from the vantage point of his great retirement home at Split.


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